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Study information

Women Writing Classics

Module titleWomen Writing Classics
Module codeCLA3275
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Emily Hauser (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

In this module we will study female writers’ receptions of the Classics and the issues which the study of (western) classicism introduces in terms of gender, identity, and canonicity. We will read some of the central modern receptions of the classical world by women writers, like Pat Barker’s Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles. By the end of the class, you will be able to discuss the influence of ‘the Classics’ in the context of feminist and reception studies, and to articulate the complex ways in which women writers engage with the classical past.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • Introduce you to the fields of feminist literary criticism and classical reception studies
  • Broaden your understanding of classical texts by introducing you to their context-specific afterlife and reception as focused through the lens of gender

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a knowledge of a selection of relevant primary material from modern and contemporary (i.e. 20th and 21st century) women’s writing
  • 2. Demonstrate the critical skills for analysis and discussion of such material, especially in terms of feminist and classical reception theory
  • 3. Demonstrate awareness of how ancient material can be used to articulate and negotiate issues around gender and identity
  • 4. Demonstrate an understanding of the role that classical reception can play in opening up interpretations for readers in different contexts (e.g. gender, ethnicity, social background, etc.)

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate sophisticated critical and analytical skills which can be applied to a wider range of texts from any culture
  • 6. Demonstrate understanding of the influence of modern conceptions on the interpretation of the ancient world, with awareness of one's own assumptions and values

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Through research for seminars and written assignments demonstrate advanced independent and group study skills in research, critical analysis, and presentation of findings
  • 8. Through writing essays, delivering informal presentations and preparing for seminars, demonstrate advanced ability to select and organise relevant material to produce an argument
  • 9. Through written assignments, informal seminar presentations and discussion, demonstrate advanced ability to present a strong, coherent argument in both oral and written forms
  • 10. Demonstrate awareness of historical and cultural differences, and an ability to interpret the ideas and assumptions of different cultures and societies

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

The module will begin by introducing the area of women’s writing and the reception of Classics, discussing what (if anything) makes women’s writing and classical receptions ‘different’, and why so many women writers are now turning to rework the myths and texts of the ancient world.

Subsequent weeks will focus on a series of case studies presenting different modern and contemporary women writers’ interpretations of the classical past. These may include subjects such as:

  • Women reading war and Iliadic interpretations (Alice Oswald, Adrienne Rich, Christa Wolf, Madeline Miller)
  • Re-working Penelope (Louise GluÃ?�ck, Margaret Atwood)
  • Women’s translations (Caroline Alexander, Emily Wilson)
  • Female responses to Sappho (Ann Carson, Erica Jong and Sapphic translations)
  • Postcolonising/psychologizing Sophocles’ Oedipus (Rita Dove, Salley Vickers)
  • Feminising Catullus (Tiffany Atkinson, Helen Dunmore)
  • De-silencing Virgil (Ursula Le Guin)
  • #MeToo and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Eavan Boland, Linda Pastan)

Students will have the opportunity to work on their own creative projects and possibly to engage in a workshop with a contemporary female practitioner of classical reception (e.g. Emily Wilson, Madeline Miller).

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching221 x 2 hour seminar per week
Guided Independent Study128Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Close study of key primary material and relevant scholarship in class, with broader discussions of issuesOngoing1-10Oral feedback from peers and lecturer
Creative project (written assignment)1000 words1-10Written peer and lecturer feedback
Essay plan1000 words1-10Tutorial feedback with lecturer
First draft of essay3000 words1-10Peer feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Creative project and/or written assignment251000 words1-10Mark and written feedback from lecturer
Essay753000 words1-10Mark and written feedback form lecturer

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Creative project and/or written assignmentCreative project and/or written assignment1-10Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-10Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Cox, Fiona, and Elena Theodorakopoulos. 2010. “Women's Translations and Adaptations of and Creative Responses to Classical Myth and Text in Recent Decades.” In Reception of Classical Texts Research Project ESeminar Paper/discussion. Milton Keynes.
  • Doherty, Lillian. 2003. Gender and the Interpretation of Classical Myth. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Holmes, Brooke. 2012. Gender: Antiquity and Its Legacy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Rabinowitz, Nancy S, and Amy Ellen Richlin, eds. 1993. Feminist Theory and the Classics. New York, London: Routledge.
  • Zajko, Vanda. 2011. “‘What Difference Was Made?’: Feminist Models of Reception .” In A Companion to Classical Receptions, edited by Lorna Hardwick and Christopher Stray, 195–206. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Zajko, Vanda, and Miriam Leonard, eds. 2008. Laughing with Medusa: Classical Myth and Feminist Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Key words search

Classics, women, feminism, literature

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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